Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Light comes through. Our task is to let it do so.

This one word “awareness” is the source of all wonders. Because of delusion concerning this awareness, the marks of self arise. When it is assumed that there is “I” or “mine,” liking and disliking automatically appear.
- Chinul (1209)

Cesco wandered Ragged Mountain with me. Our dusk walks are so quiet. Then, on cushion, darkness fell -- right where I sat.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

(Philippians 4:4-9)

These words are good words. Wind sounds with bells through them.

"It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, It is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that can be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection, No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the church's mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. That enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results. But that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are the workers, not the master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen."

(By the martyred archbishop, Oscar Romero; on Andrew Sullivan blog, http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish/)

This worker is grateful for the work given. And, thankful, as well, for the work taken.

It is enough to bring about a wandering silence.

Letting grace enter and do the rest.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Right and wrong are not combatants. Nor is truth and lies. There is something else needing our attention.

Do we know what it is?

Inscription over Taoist hermitage
The recluse’s heart is a
Placid lake
Unruffled by the winds
Of circumstance.

- Unknown

We do not know how to be alone.

My friends and my neighbours
keep far from my wounds.
Those closest to me keep far away,
while those who would kill me set traps,
those who would harm me make their plots:
they plan mischief all through the day.

(from Psalm 38)

The psalm captures our plight.

We do not know how to be alone.

This is for God to be.

Alone in the wind.

As one is alone.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

All this effort (we think) and nothing to show for it.

I don't want to forget. Forgetting is a theme of religious types. "I'm forgiven," they say, "so, I can forget." That's what is said.

When the mind is transparent and pure
As if reflected on the mirror-like surface of the water,
There is nothing in the world that you would dislike.
When it is serene as the light breeze in the sunshine,
There will be no one whom you would like to forget.

- Pa-ta Shan-jen (1626-1701)

There are a few I'd like to forget. But recall is such an important part of moving ahead. A monk once quoted someone saying "True forgiveness is remembering without bitterness." That sits well.

The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it.
(from A Spiritual Canticle of St John of the Cross)

I prefer to pass through, not gaining anything from it. To merely pass through I have to consider there is nothing to gain. If that is so, why clenched fist? What is spirited away and concealed?

Night Below Zero

3 AM, the night is absolutely still;
Snow squeals beneath my skis, plumes on the turns.
I stop at the canyon's edge, stand looking out
Over the Great Valley, over the millions —
In bed, drunk, loving, tending mills, furnaces,
Alone, wakeful, as the world rolls in chaos.
The quarter moon rises in the black heavens —
Over the sharp constellations of the cities
The cold lies, crystalline and silent,
Locked between the mountains.

(Poem: "Night Below Zero" by Kenneth Rexroth)

So many of us suffer running back to what we know, instead of falling darkly through the emptiness with the reality of One's Self.

Tonight, thick fog through mid-coast Maine. I have forgotten why I've come here. I remember being sick of those who wish the world to end so that a fixed idea of Jesus could serve their delusion as nightcap of laced abundance.

(That's too harsh.) Try this: There is no forgetting. We have to live every day as if it were the day it is. Nor is there any forgiveness. We have to see one another as one another -- thereby accepting the fact that the very next action taken is the foundation of the world.

The story of God creating the world? Yea, that's right -- look around -- it's being done right now. Download your updates. Leave the historical theology books in the swap shop. What is being written right now is not on paper, nor is it some digitized electronic pixel. Rather, it is being written in the air surrounding us, in the breath just taken, in the breath just released -- it is being written as the very...next...thing...before...us.

Care to join in? Check all your guns and sledge hammers at the door. This job demands a more radical skill.

We have to learn how to pass through. We must practice crossing through fear, disrespect, and mistrust with unclenched fist, with open hand.

With nothing to show for the passing through.

Care to be gone beyond? What is there?

Beyond which is care itself.

Gone through.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

We're uncertain whether it is ignorance or innocence.

"People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster." (-- James Baldwin)

Maybe ignorance is a kinder affliction that pious innocence -- especially when piety is pretense.

We've come to long for something more complex in one another -- something like integrity. Feign innocence and you forfeit integrity. Genuine ignorance invites a more authentic response, namely, compassion that stops short of pity.

The Hand We Are Dealt
The Buddha's maps for the journey to wisdom and happiness are attractive to many people because they are so simple. Essentially, he taught that it doesn't make sense to upset ourselves about what is beyond our control. We don't get a choice about what hand we are dealt in this life. The only choice we have is our attitude about the cards we hold and the finesse with which we play our hand. When the Buddha taught his ideas twenty-five hundred years ago, many people understood him so well as soon as they heard him that they were happy ever after. The people who didn't understand him immediately needed to practice meditation, and then they understood.
(--Sylvia Boorstein, It's Easier Than You Think)

I think of God as "What is beyond control."

Someone used the phrase: "Words failing experience." It reminds me that we often cannot grasp clearly in words what experience presents to us whole-sight. It is these times we are left with mere pure gaze.

Mere pure gaze offers nothing more that itself.

Our Lady of Guadalupe
The shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, near Mexico City, is one of the most celebrated places of pilgrimage in North America. On December 9, 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to an Indian convert, Juan Diego, and left with him a picture of herself impressed upon his cloak. Devotion to Mary under this title has continually increased, and today she is the Patroness of the Americas.

(--Universalis.com)

Guadalupe is strictly the name of a picture, but was extended to the church containing the picture and to the town that grew up around. The word is Spanish Arabic, but in Mexico it may represent certain Aztec sounds.
The place, styled Guadalupe Hidalgo since 1822 -- as in our 1848 treaty -- is three miles northeast of Mexico City. Pilgrimages have been made to this shrine almost uninterruptedly since 1531-32

(-- Catholic Encyclopedia)

What is the sound of mere pure gaze?

What is nothing more than itself?

"Not-knowing" is other than "don't-know." Innocence other than ignorance.

If so, then, what is no-other?

I'll wait here with the image Juan Diego Cuauhtlatohuac carried of Mary. (His last name, Cuauhtlatohuac, is in the Nahuatl language and has been translated as "Talking Eagle." -- Wikipedia)

Roses fell from his cloak; icon presented itself wordlessly.

What-is-beyond-control, so it seems, is not-knowing-experience.

Call me, will you, when this reality clears.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Of course I'm confused.

The person resolute in the Way must strive not to lose sight of it, whether in a place of calm or in a place of strife. Beware of clinging to quiet places and shunning those where there is disturbance. If you try to take refuge from trouble by running to some quiet place, you will fall into confusion.
- Daikaku (1213-1279)

Words are sounds from our soul. If we speak and what we say is uncaring or unkind, we cause others to suffer. But if we speak and what we say is truthful and compassionate -- suffering is diminished. I'm not sure suffering ever disappears. But if ego begins to diminish, when it becomes servant to correct relationship and authentic humility, liberation comes closer.

...Jesus, aware of their thoughts, made them this reply, ‘What are these thoughts you have in your hearts? Which of these is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven you” or to say, “Get up and walk”?
(--Luke 5: 22,23)

I'm trying to get up.

And walk.

Which way?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The trouble with contemplation is that no one owns it. It can't be regulated. No vending machine dispenses it for a quarter. In other words, stop talking about it.

"What should we do?" That's the question Luke in chapter 3 puts repeatedly to John in the wilderness.

Magnanimous Mind is like a mountain,
Stable and impartial.
Exemplifying the ocean,
It is tolerant and views everything
From the broadest perspective.

- Dogen (1200-1253)

First, we should listen. We should do what we are.

It is beyond us all to figure out why we turn deaf ear to the cries for help raised up from our midst. We do not listen. We only recalculate what is for our benefit, then mouth our responses from that narrow sliver of self-interest.

God utters me like a word containing a partial thought of himself.
[--Thomas Merton: Seeds of Contemplation]

Merton disappeared thirty eight years ago today in Thailand. Has he reappeared somewhere else? Who can tell. For me, today, he reappears in his words.

I am a partial utterance of God.

What am I?

Good enough for now.